On this week’s ‘Parenting’ segment, one listener asks how to support her daughter through a traumatising incident.
The parent told Moncrieff and child-adult psychotherapist Joanna Fortune that their 14-year-old daughter’s friend attempted suicide.
“My daughter is struggling with it - crying and sleeping in our bed,” they said.
They said they told their daughter that people can have moments when they feel “desperate” but it’s important to communicate.
Despite that, the listener is “at a loss how to help her with this”.
More listening than talking
Joanna said this is a “huge event for any teenager to deal with” and is difficult for parents who immediately think, “how can I safeguard my own children from this”.
Joanna said talking to your children is important, but sometimes “we have to avoid fixing and embrace vulnerability ourselves”.
“It’s really important to listen when kids have been exposed to something like this,” she said.
Joanna recommended going to the daughter when she is crying, the parent should consider “simply holding her, singing to her without words, soothing her, rocking with her, crying with her”.
“If you can provide a safe space for her to emotionally exhale all of the emotions that have been activated by this, that’s the important first step,” she said.
Joanna said the parent and daughter could also do activities like walking, watching a film or baking.
“It's not avoiding the topic - it’s communicating very clearly ‘you’re not alone, I’m a resource for you, I am available to you’.”
It’s important to show your children that, even when they feel so overwhelmed that they feel like they have no options, “there is always another answer”.
“We listen not just with our ears, but with body language, being attuned and knowing where they’re at.”
Joanna also recommended speaking to the daughter’s school if a school friend attempted suicide.
“It would be useful to see what approach the school is taking,” she said.
If a friend from the local area was affected, the parent should link with family resources centres and local libraries to find support groups and information.
Joanna said parents need to build this community, so they don’t feel overwhelmed or pressure their child.
“It comes from good-intentioned place,” she said. “We just want to make them feel better, we just want to say, ‘don’t worry about this, give this to me’.”
“[But] some of the scariest stuff that can happen in the world happened, and now you have to work through it with her.”
You can hear Joanna's parenting advice every Wednesday at 3.20pm on Moncrieff.
Listen back to this week's full conversation here: